Let's Learn About Steroids: Types, Function, and Side Effects
Thu, April 22, 2021

Let's Learn About Steroids: Types, Function, and Side Effects


Also known as corticosteroids, steroids refer to anti-inflammatory medicines used to address various health conditions, explained the National Health Service, the UK’s healthcare system. Steroids differ from anabolic steroids as the latter is oftentimes used by some individuals to increase their muscle mass, albeit illegally.

Steroids reduce inflammation and ease pain, swelling, and stiffness, said Versus Arthritis, whose objective is to defy arthritis. For example, when you have rheumatoid arthritis, steroids can help reduce inflammation in your joints or other parts of your body. This condition causes your immune system to attack your body by mistake. If left untreated, this can cause permanent damage. However, this does not mean steroids can cure your condition as they only aid in reducing inflammatory symptoms.

Surveys On Steroids and Image-Enhancing Drugs

The Liverpool John Moore University’s Center for Public Health (CPH), a health institution, and health agency Public Health Wales found that a total of 80 participants (85.1%) used oral anabolic steroids and of those, 19.1% were 20 years or younger at first use, with nine of the participants being 18 or under, reported Martin Chandler and Jim McVeigh.  

In Chandler and McVeigh’s 2013 report, a total of 78.7% of participants used injectable anabolic steroids and of those, 11.7% were 20 years old or below at first use, with six participants being 18 or below. In the last 12 months, some used human growth hormone (HGH) (22.3%) , insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) (4.3%), mechano growth factor (MGF) (2.1%), growth hormone releasing peptide (GHRP) (11.7%), insulin (9.6%), and melanotan (17%).

The participants also used the following ancillary oral “Anti side-effect” drugs such as tamoxifen (Nolvadex) (44.7%), clomiphene (clomid) (26.6%), aromatase inhibitors (37.2%), and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) (7.4%) in the last 12 months. Other ancillary drugs used by the respondents in the last 12 months were clenbuterol (36.2%), DNP (21.3%), thyroid hormones (T3, T40 (24.5%), ephedrine (31.9%), diuretics (8.5%), and Viagra/Cialis (28.7%).

In a 2015 survey by McVeigh, Geoff Bates, and Chandler of CPH and Public Health Wales, the respondents’ main goals in using SIED were to gain muscle (59.3%), to lost fat (14.8%), to get stronger (11.1%), and to get fitter (1.9%). The respondents also said they use SIED to improve endurance or stamina (1.9%), to get a tan (1.9%), to reduce wrinkles or improve skin (0.9%), and to increase sex drive (0.9%).  

The respondents first injected SIED when they were 21 and below (26.9%), 22-25 (22.2%), 26-30 (17.6%), and 31 and above (20.4%). Oral consumption of SIED were as follows: 21 and under (33.3%), 22-25 (24.1%), 26-30 (13.9%), and 31 and above (17.6%). In the past year, the respondents used the following oral SIEDs: anabolic steroids (64.6%), nolvadex (57.6%), aromatase inhibitor (46.5%), Viagra/Cialis (44.4%), and clomid (33.3%).

They also used the following injectable SIEDs in the past year: testosterone enanthate (63.8%), sustanon (45.7%), testosterone propionate (40.4%), deca-durabolin (38.3%), underground lab blend (36.1%), and trenbolone acetate (35.1%). When asked about the psychocactive substances taken in the past year, the participants cited cannabis (14.8%), cocaine (10.2%), ecstasy (0.3%), speed (9.3%), and ketamine (3.7%).

The respondents also have experienced injuries and adverse side-effects associated with SIED in the past year like testicular atrophy (50%), pain at injection site (43.5%), swelling, redness or heat at injection site (26.9%), raised blood pressure (25.9%), and gynecomastia (19.4%).



What Are the Types of Steroids?

The main types of steroids are prednisolone (ex: tablets, syrups, and liquids), beclomestasone and fluticasone (ex: inhalers and nasal sprays), methylprednisolone (ex: injections), and hydrocortisone skin cream (ex: creams, lotions, and gels). Many steroids are only available through prescription, but creams or nasal sprays are available over-the-counter.

Tablets, liquids, and soluble tablets are taken usually once a day (preferably in the morning) and either with or after consuming food to prevent gastric problems. Creams and gels are usually applied once or twice a day for a few weeks. However, your physician may advise you to use them less often for a longer period. Meanwhile, steroids in the form of eye drops and ointments may need to be taken on a regular basis throughout the day. One drop is applied in each eye each time you use it.



How Do Steroids Work?

Steroids reduce redness and inflammation when you take higher doses of steroids— which refer to man-made version hormones produced by the adrenal glands above the kidneys— than the amount your body normally produces. Steroids are helpful in alleviating inflammatory conditions like asthma and eczema. Steroids also minimize the activity of your immune system, which aids in treating autoimmune conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

What Are the Side Effects of Steroids?

They do not tend to cause side effects if steroids are consumed for a short time or at a low dose. However, they sometimes cause side effects such as mood changes, increased appetite, and difficulty sleeping— which are common with steroids tablets. Mood changes may be more common if you have a previous history of mood swings. Those side effects will dissipate once you have finished the treatment. Don’t stop taking your medicine without consulting your doctor first. If you stop taking your prescribed medication, it can cause further side effects.

Moreover, it is recommended to talk to your doctor if you develop shingles, chickenpox, measles, or if you come into contact with a person who has any of these conditions. In some cases, these diseases can be severe if you are taking steroids. You might need to request your physician for an alternative treatment option before you feel better. If steroids are taken for a longer period time, they can affect the menstrual cycle and weaken your muscles. 

Steroid creams and eye drops do not usually cause adverse side effects, but if they are taken for an extended period, they could be absorbed into your blood and make you more vulnerable to side effects that are normally caused by steroid tablets. Steroids can also affect high blood pressure, diabetes, or epilepsy. Hence, it is important to have your blood pressure and blood sugar levels checked periodically.  



How Do I Manage The Side Effects of Steroids?

Monitor your weight, make sensible food choices, and incorporate physical activity in your daily routine to prevent you from gaining excess weight. Since steroids can weaken your bones and can lead to osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend you take bisphosphonates or calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent it. Ensure that you get enough calcium in your diet and avoid smoking or consuming too much alcohol.   

Steroids help reduce anti-inflammatory symptoms while anabolic steroids enable individuals to increase their muscle mass. Steroids can cause serious side effects if taken for a longer period. Those experiencing side effects need to consult their doctor for alternative treatment options.